forensic document examination


In both criminal and civil matters, investigators who specialize in documents look at every aspect of their composition and the information held within to determine facts about the case at hand. Those facts could be as simple as whether two handwritten notes were made by the same person or as complex as detecting counterfeit currency that manages to bluff the most advanced anti-counterfeiting measures.

Five Big Questions Answered

Forensic examiners look at a variety of document features to make key determinations investigators and attorneys can use to build a case. They do not analyze the information in the documents, but the documents themselves.

For example, if financial records need to be reconciled to find hidden money, that is the purview of a forensic accountant, not a document examiner. Similarly, assessing the quality of information in a piece of research or a testimonial to an event would require experts who can speak to that information. Essentially, forensic document examination specialists answer these questions about documents:

  1. Was a set of documents written by the same person?
  2. Was this document produced by the same machine as another?
  3. Has anyone made changes or alterations to the document after its creation?
  4. What inks or substances were used to make the markings? What was the writing instrument?
  5. Is the document a forgery?

These questions can have a huge impact on investigations in many areas. When it comes to financial fraud and disputes between individuals, it can show if any alterations were made to contracts or financial records that might point to an intentional deception on the part of one party or another. For investigations into other crimes, it can help determine if records provided for alibi or disclosures that indicate a party’s motive are accurate.

For civil cases outside of financial transactions and disputes around them, there are also a broad range of applications. For example, during a custody dispute, document examination could determine whether notes and communications one party accuses the other party of leaving are genuine. They can also be used to detect forgery if you suspect a contract was faked.

How It’s Done

When forensic professionals specializing in document analysis are assigned their duties by a client, it doesn’t matter if the client is a public entity like law enforcement or a private one like a corporate actor carrying out due diligence. The same scientific processes and professional ethics bind the examiner either way, and their duty is to uncover the truth about the document’s provenance and history, not to take sides in the dispute itself.

Since document examination techniques require a range of samples, the examiner may request additional materials like writing samples from the parties involved, or samples from the machine in question. Using these extra examples is the key to the technique, because the name of the game is close comparison. Machines that print documents have unique quirks that play out in their product, and by knowing how to look for the production characteristics caused by the machine, one can pinpoint whether two documents came from the same machine. The more points of comparison, the better the match, just like with fingerprint analysis.

Finding forgeries can be more difficult, especially when it comes to historic documents. Document examiners who apply forensic techniques to historic documents may not have other writing samples to look at or even other pieces of writing made with the same materials at the same time period. In those cases, they may need to turn to well-documented examples, like artifacts examined and published in detail in professional journals or those they can access with permissions at various archives. It can be a long process, and one that uses other testing techniques like various chemical and radiological dating techniques.

Do You Need a Document Examiner?

Beau Dietl & Associates has extensive experience in document examination. If you need a document verified, contact us today.

What Is Forensic Document Examination?
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What Is Forensic Document Examination?
Forensic document examination is not something that people regularly come across in daily life. However, it is important to know what this is and what will happen when this is done. What Is Forensic Document Examination? Forensic document examination is an established field of scientific study which is a linked to law enforcement. This field of study started in the early 20th century as a method of identifying fraud and determining the authenticity of vital documentation. The need for this came from the court system where the evaluation of document evidence was necessary. As the original documents that were examined were hand-written this field of study has often been called handwriting identification. However, modern forensic document examination will look at a number of different issues related to paperwork. There are 6 primary areas that examiners will be able to look into and give judgments on. The Scope Of Forensic Document Examination There are 6 areas of document examination that can be looked at. The first is the identification of handwriting and signatures which is based on the principle that while writing in a single language will be alike to a certain degree there are personal features that differentiate one person's handwriting from another's. To complete this examination the different class and individual characteristics of writing will need to be taken into account. The second area is the identification of the document as a forgery. This can be harder to determine based on the skill of the forger and whether or not they have taken the time to correctly forge a signature. There are times when this is easy because no attempt was made to forge the signature completely. The third area is the identification of check writers and photocopies where it needs to be determined whether a document comes from the same machine as another. Each machine will have certain characteristics which are unique and the examiner will need to determine this. The fourth area is the detection of alterations and erasures in a document. The fifth area is the identification and deciphering of indented writing. Indented writing is the imprint that is left on pages under the page where the writing actually took place. This will often be used when dealing with a pad of paper where the top page is missing. The last area is the comparison of inks as well as the identification of the writing instrument. Different writing instruments will leave a different trail pattern and the examiner will need to use this to determine what has been used to write. ABOUT US Beau Dietl & Associates is a premier Private Investigator NYC Company with offices in New Jersey, Florida and California. We have affiliates in every large city across the United States through our unique network. We also have partners around the world in almost every country. These contacts were developed from over 30 years of experience in the private investigations and security sector. We can help you with any problems you may be facing.  Address: 1 Pennsylvania Plaza, 50th Floor, New York, NY 10119 Phone: (212) 557-3334
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